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Episcopal Visitation of Cathedrals in the Church of England

  • Philip Barrett (a1)


In December 1994 the Revd Philip LS Barrett BD MA FRHistS FSA, Rector of Compton and Otterbourne in the Diocese of Winchester, successfully submitted a dissertation to the University of Wales College of Cardiff for the degree of LLM in Canon Law, entitled ‘Episcopal Visitation of Cathedrals in the Church of England’. Philip Barrett, best known for his magisterial study, Barchester: English Cathedral Life in the Nineteenth Century (SPCK1993), died in 1998. The subject matter of this dissertation is of enduring importance and interest to those engaged in the life and work of cathedrals, and the Editor invited Canon Peter Atkinson, Chancellor of Chichester Cathedral, to repare it for publication in this Journal, so that the author's work might receive a wider circulation, but at a manageable length. In 1999 a new Cathedrals Measure was enacted, following upon the recommendations of the Howe Commission, published in the report Heritage and Renewal (Church House Publishing 1994). The author was able to refer to the report, but not to the Measure, or to the revision of each set of cathedral Statutes consequent upon that Measure. While this limits the usefulness of the author's work as a point of reference for the present law of cathedral visitations, its value as an historical introduction remains.



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1 I have reduced the dissertation by just over 50 per cent. I have tried to preserve the main thrust of the study, while dispensing with much of the illustration from particular instances. The reader will understand how much has been lost in the process; I can only refer the enquirer to the original copy kept by the University of Wales. (There is also a typescript in the Library of Chichester Cathedral). The historical background is obviously important, so I have retained the introductory chapter as far as the Reformation; something of the subsequent history of visitations is gathered from the pages that follow. I have regretfully jettisoned the appendix on metropolitical and royal visitations, and visitations Sede vacante. [PA]

2 Every word of the text that follows is the author's. I have only very slightly reordered the material for the purposes of readability. For instance, I have used the last paragraph of the introduction to conclude the whole article. I have kept all the substantial footnotes of the surviving text, but excised extensive references to now obsolete sets of cathedral Statutes. [PA]

3 In his introduction, Philip Barrett thanked Bishop Eric Kemp and Dr Norman Doe for their encouragement and advice; I am sure he would wish these acknowledgements to appear here. As one who knew Philip Barrett very slightly, I am glad to have a hand in bringing his work to a wider readership; and I am very grateful indeed to Mrs Irene Smale for re-typing the whole of the dissertation so that it could be electronically edited. [PA]

4 The author also refers extensively to the Care of Cathedrals Measure 1990. The Care of Cathedrals (Amendment) Measure received Royal Assent on 24 March 2005, but the author's treatment of this aspect of a bishop's visitatorial power is not substantially affected.

5 As far as I can tell, the impact of the 1999 Measure upon the conduct of visitations is not substantial, and any bishop contemplating a visitation of his cathedral will learn much from Philip Barrett's scholarship–and advice. [PA]

6 Frere, WH, Visitation Articles and Injunctions of the Period of the Reformation (London 1910), 1, 19. For further references to a letter of Pope Gregory I to a diocesan bishop in 592 and to the provisions of the 4th Council of Toledo in 633 and the 2nd Council of Braga in 752, cf Smith, PM, ‘Points of Law and Practice Concerning Ecclesiastical Visitations’, (1991) 2 Ecc LJ 189 at 190.

7 Cheney, CR, Episcopal Visitation of Monasteries in the 13th Century (Manchester 1931), 32.

8 The monastic chapters were: Canterbury, Carlisle, Durham, Ely, Norwich, Rochester, Winchester and Worcester. The secular chapters were: Chichester, Exeter, Hereford, Lichfield, Lincoln, St Paul's London, Salisbury, Wells and York. In addition, the Benedictine monasteries at Bath and Coventry had co-cathedral status with the secular chapters at Wells and Lichfield. All the monasteries were Benedictine, apart from Carlisle which was an Augustinian foundation.

9 Smith 194.

10 Ibid 194.

11 Cheney 33; Smith 194.

12 Smith 194; cf Cheney 35.

13 Cheney 35.

14 Moorman, JRH, A History of The Franciscan Order From Its Origins to The Year 1517 (Oxford 1968) 98.

15 Moorman, JRH, The Franciscans in England (London 1974) 52. The most recent study of Grosseteste is Southern, RW, Robert Grosseteste–The Growth of an English Mind in Mediaeval Europe (2nd edition, Oxford 1992). An older one is Callus, DA (ed), Robert Grosseteste, Scholar and Bishop (Oxford 1955).

16 Southern 259. For Grosseteste's own account of his purpose in visitation, cf Southern 258.

17 Luard, HR (ed), Roberti Grosseteste epistolæ (Rolls Series, London) Ep 127 for Grosseteste's quarrel with his chapter,cf Srawley, JH, ‘Grosseteste's Administration of the Diocese of Lincoln’, in DA Callus (ed) 171–177;Srawley, JH, Robert Grosseteste, Bishop of Lincoln 1235–1253 (Lincoln 1966) 1819; and Owen, D (ed) A History of Lincoln Minster (Cambridge 1994) 157158.

18 Srawley (1966) 18.

19 Ep 73.

20 Ep 77.

21 Ep 80.

22 For the text, cf Bradshaw, H and Wordsworth, CStatutes of Lincoln Cathedral (Cambridge 1892) I 315319; cf Srawley (1966) 18–19.

23 This award has been described as, ‘a turning-point in the relations of bishops and secular chapters in England’. (Edwards, KThe English Secular Cathedrals in the Middle Ages (2nd edManchester 1967) 129). The most recent discussion is in Crosby, EUBishop and Chapter in 12th Century England (Cambridge 1994) 310312.

24 Eg Frere I 82.

25 Cheney, 35 135: cf Sext III, xx I, paragraph 6.

26 Bradshaw and Wordsworth II cl.

27 Frere I 75; Wordsworth, C and Macleane, D, Statutes and Customs of the Cathedral Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Salisbury (London 1915) 96101, 282–307.

28 Bannister, ATThe Cathedral Church of Hereford (London 1924) 176180; Frere, I 79; Edwards 132–133.

29 Frere I 79, 109–110; cf Deedes, C (ed), Episcopal Register of Robert Rede 1397–1415 (2 vols, 19081910) I 6970, 98–127; II 363–373.

30 Frere I 79; Edwards 131. Edwards comments that at Chichester, ‘the bishop's powers during visitation became much wider than those of most English bishops’.

31 Frere I 78.

32 Edwards 129 n 5. For Grandisson's injunctions following his visitation in 1328, cf Frere I 116–117.

33 Frere I 76. For the details collected at this time from other cathedrals about visitations, cf ibid 170–171. There were controversies at Lichfield about attempted visitations in 1322–4 and 1357–9. There is some evidence for visitations c 1350 and in 1397 (Edwards 132).

34 Frere I 77.

35 Frere I 77–78; Edwards 131.

36 Frere I, 75–76; Edwards 129–130; Dobson, RB, The Later Middle Ages, 1215–1500 in Aylmer, GE and Cant, R (eds) A History of York Minster (Oxford 1977) 8384.

37 Cheney 60; Churchill, IJCanterbury Administration (2 vols London 1933) I 134.

38 Cheney 60–61.

39 Ibid 67.

40 Ibid 68–69; Dobson, RB, Durham Priory 1400–1450 (Cambridge 1973) 220.

41 The priory's scribe wrote in the Liber Albus: ‘His clerks and ours discussed a certain new constitution, which the Pope had recently put forth, respecting the entrance of a bishop for making a visitation. And since it was doubted whether that decretal was common or special, general or local, the Prior made protest that he would admit him on that occasion with two clerks and one notary, always, however, saving our composition if that constitution was not general. The Bishop made a like protest’. (Wilson, JMThe Worcester Liber Albus London 1920, 36; cf Cheney 69).

42 Cheney 71.

43 Knowles, D, The Religious Orders in England (Cambridge 1962) I 104.

44 Carter, EHStudies In Norwich Cathedral History (Norwich 1935) 331.

45 Evans, SJA ‘Ely Chapter Ordinances and Visitation Records 1241–1515’, Camden Miscellany vol xvii London 1940 (Camden Society, 3rd series, vol lxiv) vi (cf Cheney 14).

46 Dobson 220, 231.

47 Ibid 231; cf Harbottle, B ‘Bishop Hatfield's Visitation of Durham Priory 1354’, Bishop Richard of Bury visited in 1337 and there were only five more visitations before 1408.

48 Dobson 232.

49 Ibid 233.

50 Ibid 235. For the meaning of comperta cf below p 274. For Le Covenit cf Crosby 150–151.

51 Dobson 235.

52 Ibid 236.

53 Sextus 3 xx 1; Boyd v Phillpotts (1874) LR 4 A & E 297 at 320, 341, Ct of Arches; Phillpotts v Boyd (1875) LR 6 PC 435 at 450, 456; Gibson Codex II 957;Phillimore, Ecclesiastical Law (2nd edn) (London 1895) II 10451046;Smith, 203. Canon, C 17 para 2, recognises the jurisdiction of each archbishop ‘to correct and supply the defects of other bishops, and, during the time of his metropolitical visitation, jurisdiction as Ordinary’. Canon C 18 para 4 similarly recognises the right of diocesan bishops to hold visitations. The purpose of visitations, according to Canon G 5 para 1 is, ‘for the edifying and well-governing of Christ's flock…for the supply of such things as are lacking and the correction of such things as are amiss’.

54 Cf Withers v Dean and Chapter of Exeter (1611) Appeals to Delegates, no 15 (PP 1867–8 lvii 112).

55 Cf Phillpotts v Boyd (1875) LR 6 PC 435 at 450 per Lord Hatherley: ‘It is equally certain, that as to some matters, at all events the bishop, visiting his dean and chapter as ordinary, would have power to make orders binding upon the dean and chapter, subject to an appeal to the higher Ecclesiastical Tribunals’. For further cases, cf Smith 204 n 170.

56 R v Dean and Chapter of Chester (1850) 15 QB 513 at 519.

57 Green v Rutherforth (1750) 1 Ves Sen 465 at 472; cf also Philips v Bury (1694) Holt KB 715 at 724.

58 ‘The Crown is clearly represented as the founder of the church and donor of the statutes, and the whole tenor of the statutes is indicative of a quasi-private corporation. In each cathedral, the bishop is specially appointed visitor to supervise that particular foundation and to see that it observes its own rules…There is therefore no material distinction to be drawn between the visitor of an eleemosynary corporation and the local visitor of a cathedral of Henry VII's foundation, and this means that the courts have been able to use freely, decisions concerning the jurisdiction in one kind of foundation as authority in determining the powers in the other’. (Smith, PM, ‘The Exclusive Jurisdiction of the University Visitor’, Law Quarterly Review, vol 97, 10 1981, 610 at 610–611;cf idem ‘Points of Law’, (1991) 2 Ecc LJ 189 at 204. The Henrician statutes for both Peterborough and Carlisle expressly recognised the bishop's ordinary jurisdiction in addition to his jurisdiction under the statutes. (Falkner and Thompson xlvi). For a general account of the jurisdiction of a visitor, cf Halsbury's Laws of England (4th edition, London 1975), vol 5 paras 872–879.

59 R v Bishop of Chester (1747) 1 Wm Bl 22, 1 Wils 206; Philips v Bury (1694) Holt KB 715 at 726–727; Whiston v Dean and Chapter of Rochester (1849) 7 Hare 532; R v Dean and Chapter of Chester (1850) 15 QB 513; Boyd v Phillpotts (1874) LR 4A & E 297 at 335–336, Ct of Arches; cf Smith, PM, ‘Points of Law’ (1991) 2 Ecc LJ 204.

60 Philips v Bury (1694) Holt KB 715 at 720; Attorney-General v Talbot (1748) 3 Atk 662 at 674; Whiston v Dean and Chapter of Rochester (1849) 7 Hare 532; R v Dean and Chapter of Chester (1850) 15 QB 513; R v Dean and Chapter of Rochester (1851) 17 QB 1.

61 Cathedrals Measure 1931 (21 & 22 George 5, c7); Cathedrals Measure 1963 (No 2), s 6.

62 A good example is the account of Bishop William Gray's visitation at Lincoln in 1432 (Thompson, AH (ed) Visitation of Religious Houses in the Diocese of Lincoln (London 1915) I 128145. Thompson's summary of the procedure is valuable (ibid ix–xiii).

63 Dobson 235.

64 Cheney 95–99. Frere (op cit I, 111) makes a good distinction between injunctions which are orders given for the enforcement of what is already enforceable, constitutions which are new diocesan regulations approved by a diocesan synod of clergy and statutes which are new regulations for a cathedral proposed with the consent of the chapter.

65 Phillimore, II, 1050. A recent example of this was at Bishop Eric Kemp's general visitation at Chichester in 1978. The bishop's charge was given in two parts, on 3 November 1978 and 22 March 1979. At the end of the first part he stressed that, ‘The inhibition contained in the citation read earlier means that until the visitation is concluded and the inhibition relaxed they (the Administrative Chapter) must take no action on any matters covered by the Visitation without my knowledge and consent’. For earlier examples at Chichester, cf the inhibition issued by Bishop Francis Hare in 1733 (West Sussex Record Office, Cap 1/1/2, 189) and the citation issued by Bishop Bell for his visitation in 1948 (West Sussex Record Office, Cap 1/7/3). For details of the manner of issuing citations in Chichester in the eighteenth century, cf West Sussex Record Office Cap 1/1/2, 219.

66 For details of the ‘Forme of the Visitation of the Cathedral Church of Chichester’ drawn up for Bishop Waddington's visitation in 1727, cf West Sussex Record Office, Cap 1/1/2, 174. John Wordsworth's visitation at Salisbury in 1888 is a good example of the procedures used in the late nineteenth century (cf Wordsworth and Macleane, 467–492).

67 West Sussex Record Office, Cap 1/1/2, 164–165.

68 Visitation of the Cathedral Church of St Mary the Virgin, Blackburn, by Alan, Lord Bishop of Blackburn, November 1991, s1.4.

69 Diocese of Salisbury: Visitation of the Cathedral Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Salisbury: the Bishop's Charge, by John, Bishop of Salisbury, 14 October 1991, 1.

70 Phillimore notes that ‘the practice seems to have varied as to appointing a civilian as commissary or as assessor. Bishop Gibson chose an assessor. Sometimes also two commissaries have been appointed’. (Phillimore, I, 169n).

71 The Church of England (Miscellaneous Provisions) Measure 1976 (no 3) relieves bishops of the necessity of holding visitations at regular intervals. It may be doubted whether this was a wise reform.

72 For evidence on oath at visitations, cf Coulton, GG, Five Centuries of Religion (Cambridge 1927), 480485; for the oath at Chichester in the 17th and 18th centuries, cf West Sussex Record Office, Cap 1/1/2 pp 116, 157, 174.

73 At Carlisle a distinction is made between those mentioned in the statutes and others employed in the service of the cathedral. (Carlisle statutes, st I s 6).

74 Canterbury statutes, st XXXIX, s 2. The Canterbury and Winchester statutes regarding visitations are derived from differing translations of a virtually common Latin original. (cf Jenkins, C (ed) The Statutes of the Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of Christ, Canterbury (Canterbury 1925), 8893; Goodman and Hutton, 78–82.

75 The Bishop of Winchester has entrusted to him as visitor the ‘charge of this Cathedral Church…and as such he is commanded and entreated diligently to secure that the praises of God shall be constantly celebrated morning and evening in the aforesaid Church; that the most beautiful fabric both without and within, as the dignity of the place doth demand, shall before all else whatsoever be preserved not only from all decay but even from defect, and from time to time, as often as the occasion may require, shall be put in good repair; lastly that all members of the aforesaid Church shall perform their proper duties soberly and devoutly in brotherly love’ (Ibid st I).

76 Truro statutes st I s 6 (2).

77 Ibid st I s 8.

78 R v Bishop of Chester (1747) 1 Wm B1 22 at 25–6.

79 Dean and Chapter of Chester v Bishop of Chester (1902) 87 LT 618 HL.

80 (1902) 87 LT at 619. Lord Davey, agreeing with him, said: ‘The master of the school has ceased to owe any duties to the Dean and Chapter, and is not in any sense whatsoever a ‘minister’ or officer of the cathedral church…if the present master is not a minister or officer of the cathedral, the bishop, as visitor, has no jurisdiction over him, and no jurisdiction to entertain his claim to the place in the cathedral which was attached to the headmaster of the cathedral school as a minister or officer of the church by the statutes’. (87 LT at 621).

81 Cf Jasper, RCD, George Bell, Bishop of Chichester (London 1967) 356359. In his charge he said that it was fitting ‘that I should address myself above all other things to the principal question of the purpose of our Cathedral and how that purpose may be better served in these days’ (Bell, GKAThe Function of Chichester Cathedral (Hove 1948) 3. [Barrett, Philip has further described this visitation in ‘The Visitation of the Cathedral’, article posthumously published in Bell of Chichester, edited Paul, Foster (Otter Memorial Paper 17, Chichester 2004) pp 5166. -PA]

82 GKA Bell 33.

83 Ibid 11–12, 33.

84 Ibid 33.

85 Ibid 33; cf pp 17–23. He directed that the librarian and the communar should always be different persons, to accord with the statutes.

86 Ibid 23–32.

87 Chichester Capitular Records (West Sussex Record Office, Cap 1/7/3).

88 Ibid 16.

89 Cf Bishop Eric Kemp: ‘A bishop can require the dean and chapter of his cathedral to observe its statutes and the general law of the Church. He can advise and recommend but he has no power to direct them how to administer the cathedral and the institutions attached to it, nor has anybody else, so long as they act in accordance with the statutes’. [This is quoted from s 3 of the charge of Bishop Kemp's special visitation of the Prebendal School (the Chichester Cathedral choir school), in 1981. In the original dissertation Philip Barrett considers this visitation at some length, and thanks Bishop Kemp for a sight of his visitation charge.–PA].

90 Wordsworth and Macleane 16–37.

91 Edwards 12; for the research of Dr Diana Greenway into this matter, cf Crosby, EU, 336–339.

92 Ibid 19–20.

93 Ibid 23.

94 Ibid 115–116.

95 Ibid 117–119.

96 Bradshaw and Wordsworth, I 83; II clxxii–clxxxviii; III 233.

97 Ibid I 147, 149, 151; II 182–186, 187–228, 259–267; 366–495.

98 Cf Owen (ed) 159–163. In the current Lincoln statutes, st I, s 6, a decision made by the visitor following a question or dispute arising from the interpretation of the constitution or statutes is still ‘technically called a Laudum or Award’. For a note on the meaning of Laudum, cf Benson, EWThe Cathedral: its necessary place in the life and work of the Church (London 1878) n 16.

99 Kitchin, GW and Madge, FTDocuments relating to the foundation of the Chapter of Windsor, 1541–7 (London 1889) 143, 164. Interpreters other than the bishop were also found at Chester (Archbishop of York), Ely, Gloucester, Bristol, Rochester and Worcester (Archbishop of Canterbury), and Peterborough (Lord Chancellor) (Smith, PM, ‘Exclusive Jurisdiction’ at 613 n 31).

100 Goodman and Hutton, 80–81. The Marian statutes at Durham recognised the bishop as statutorum declarator (Falkner and Thompson, lx–lxi).

101 Jebb, J and Phillott, HWThe Statutes of the Cathedral Church of Hereford (Hereford 1882) 104107.

102 Smith, Exclusive Jurisdiction, at 613. The case of R v Dean and Chapter of Chester (1850) 15 QB 513 at 519 specifically recognises a visitor's power ‘upon appeal to him, to restore a person to an office on the foundation’. For the background, cf above pp 272–274. The codes of cathedral statutes drawn up in the 1960s all provide for the bishop to be the interpreter of the statutes.

103 This obliges the administrative bodies of cathedrals to seek the advice of their own fabric committee and to obtain the approval of the Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England for any works ‘which would materially affect the architectural, archaeological, artistic or historic character of the cathedral church, or any building within the precinct of the cathedral church which is for the time being used for ecclesiastical purposes, or the immediate setting of the cathedral church, or any archaeological remains within the precinct of the cathedral church, or for the sale, loan or other disposal of any object the property of which is vested in the chapter of the cathedral church, being an object of architectural, archaeological, artistic, or historic interest, or for the permanent addition to the cathedral church of any object which would materially affect the architectural, archaeological, artistic, or historical character of the cathedral church’.

104 Care of Cathedrals (Supplementary Provisions) Measure 1994 s 2(1).

105 Ibid s 2(1).

106 Ibid s 2(2).

107 Ibid s 2(3).

108 Ibid s 2(4). The provision in s 2(3) is made ‘without prejudice to any rule of law as to the effect of episcopal visitation’.

109 Ibid s 3(1), (2).

110 Ibid s 3(3).

111 Ibid s 3(4).

112 Ibid s 3(5), (6).

113 Ibid s 4(1). Under s 4(2) the Church Commissioners may pay the costs or expenses of such proceedings.

114 Ibid s 5(1), (3).

115 Ibid s 5(2).

116 Ibid s 6(1).

117 Ibid s 6(3).

118 Ibid s 6(4), (6). Such an order shall not be made if the contravention took place more than six years previously (s 6(5)), unless relevant facts have been deliberately concealed from the bishop. (s 6(7)).

119 Ibid s 6(9).

120 Ibid s 6(10).

121 Care of Cathedrals (Supplementary Provisions) Measure 1994 ss 7, 8, Schedule.

122 For a further discussion of this Measure, cf Report by the Ecclesiastical Commitee upon the Care of Cathedrals (Supplementary Provisions) Measure (Ecclesiastical Committee 206th Report, HL Paper 27-II; HC 250, London 1994).

123 Heritage and Renewal 66–7.

124 Cf Picarda, HThe Law and Practice Relating to Charities (London 1977) 429431 for details of the procedure.

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Episcopal Visitation of Cathedrals in the Church of England

  • Philip Barrett (a1)


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